Ivanka, president elect Donald Trump’s Jewish daughter, was a high-profile part of her father’s campaign, and her choice of home and synagogue near the White House are a hint that this will be a meaningful part of his presidency.
It was announced earlier this week that Ivanka and Jared Kushner purchased a $5.5 million dollar home in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood and will attend the Chabad synagogue, a seven-minute walk from their new home. This is an important consideration as the Kushners are Sabbath observant and do not drive from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
The Chabad Shul is informal, not having formal memberships, and not charging for High-Holiday services. Sabbath prayers attract a modest 40-50 people. Its rabbi, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, made headlines two weeks ago at an official Menorah lighting ceremony when he criticized President Barack Obama for allowing an anti-Israel resolution to pass a United Nations Security Council vote un-vetoed.
A longer walk would bring them to the Kesher Israel synagogue, which is modern Orthodox. The synagogue attracts many of Washington’s Orthodox Jewish political elite, many of who are Trump critics, like Aaron Keyak, who ran an anti-Trump political action committee. Kesher has had troubles since its former senior rabbi, Barry Freundel, pleaded guilty to voyeurism charges after covertly filming a changing room at the mikvah (ritual bath). He is now serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence and the synagogue is seeking a new spiritual leader.
They will probably not attend the Ohev Shalom Synagogue, another nearby Orthodox synagogue, since its senior rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, made a scene at the last American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in June, shouting out against Donald Trump before his speech, calling Ivanka’s father “wicked”.
The new first-daughter’s residence will be two blocks away from where outgoing President Obama and his family are going to lease a house.
No matter which synagogue they attend, this will be the first time a president has close family that are Jewish. Except for President Obama’s Jewish half-brother, Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, who lives in China, and his four Jewish siblings, none of whom lived in Washington or seemed to have influenced his foreign policy.